How can faith and religion be maintained after a dementia diagnosis?

Religious or spiritual beliefs can bring lots of comfort and support to people with dementia. Find out how to make sure they’re able to continue with their faith

Three signs the person you’re caring for is spiritually supported

1. They feel calm and content.
2. Their social circle includes friends from their religious community.
3. They are keen to worship regularly – whether going to church, mosque or temple.

Even if you aren’t religious yourself, don’t underestimate the importance of your loved one being able to practise their faith. Here’s why…

It boosts confidence

Retaining a sense of ‘who’ they are and always have been – can be very reassuring and calming for someone with dementia. Not only is it comforting to be in an environment which is inherently familiar, it’s also a way to increase feelings of self-worth.

It’s sociable

Practising your faith usually means meeting other like-minded people, which is a great for someone with dementia, who might otherwise be feeling isolated or lonely.

It provides solace

A dementia diagnosis can be very upsetting and scary, and many people who practise a religion say that it helps them find peace and comfort.

It triggers memory

Singing hymns, saying familiar prayers or listening to familiar readings can be very beneficial for a person with dementia, as it can trigger memories. The same goes for the sights, sounds and smells of a religious service which can be instantly familiar and comforting.

2 ways to help them keep the faith

1. Find the right church or service

If they’ve been neglecting their faith recently or have moved house and are no longer near their previous place of worship, you may need to investigate new options. Whatever you decide, just try to make sure it’s as near as possible to the sort of service they’ve always enjoyed and that the congregation and/or religious leaders are welcoming and accepting of people with dementia. Click here for a list of dementia friendly churches.

2. Bring their religion home

Person centred care means always trying to put your loved one’s preferences and needs at the heart of everything you’re doing for them. And little, everyday things really do mean a lot. For example, making sure that their rosary beads, bible or prayer book are always close by, or that a favourite religious statue or picture is easy for them to see, could encourage them to feel calm and content. Helping them remember and celebrate religious feast days will be much appreciated too. Whilst arranging a mid-week visit from their priest, vicar, rabbi or religious leader could turn a ‘bad day’ into a very good day.